Player welfare trumps festive tradition insists Chelsea boss Hayes

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers.

Player welfare is more important in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League than fulfilling the British tradition of festive football, insists Chelsea manager Emma Hayes.

The Women’s Super League takes a three-week hiatus over the Christmas period to allow the players to recharge their batteries and enjoy the Queen’s speech, cracker jokes and turkey in peace.

But Boxing Day and New Year’s Day football has been a long-standing custom in the Premier League and the lower divisions of men’s football since before television money came into the game.

And despite the growing interest in women’s football and increased exposure it has received, Hayes believes it is the right decision to give players some much-needed R&R time.

“I think the festive break is definitely needed,” said Hayes.

“They play for 11 months of the year these footballers. They need time to recover.

“They played a World Cup, most of them had three weeks off that’s it. They get ten days to breathe.

“If you want to perform at the Olympics next summer where they’ll have another 2-3 weeks off, then you have to have a middle break for the players.

“You have to put them first. It’s simple.”

Hayes’ thoughts on the festive break echo those of England and Manchester City star Jill Scott, who was part of the Lionesses side that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.

“It's a relief we're not playing games through the Christmas period,” Scott told the Daily Mail.

“Although Boxing Day football is a long-standing British tradition, if we're being completely honest, players across the FA Women's Super League need a break.

“If you asked the players, particularly those who were at the World Cup in France this summer, they would all say they need the three-week winter break because of how busy this year has been.”

Chelsea’s last game before the Christmas break ended in a frustrating 1-1 draw against second-from-bottom Liverpool at Prenton Park as they lost ground on league leaders Arsenal.

Hayes branded the pitch the worst in the Women’s Super League after the encounter at Tranmere’s ground, which leaves Chelsea four points behind the defending champions with a game in hand.

But they will resume their league challenge against Reading on January 5 when their ranks will be bolstered by the arrival of Sam Kerr, widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the world.

The all-time leading scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League in the US and the Australian W-League is available for the second half of the season after signing a two-and-a-half-year deal.

And while Hayes stressed that she will not be making special plans to fit her team around Kerr, she hopes the Australian’s arrival will keep the rest of her squad on their toes.

“We don’t make plans around anyone,” she said. “It’s a team game she will fit into the team. I hope players will be looking over their shoulders, if not then I’m not doing my job.

“You can’t get complacent, we’ve got to win things. No matter who you are we’ve got to keep the juice in consistently if you want to keep competing for titles.”